Pandemic exposes greater need for respiratory therapists


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The pandemic has shifted how many view the healthcare industry and those who work in the profession. Some roles that often flew under the radar are now being seen with renewed interest.

One of those professions is respiratory therapy. These specialists can be seen in emergency rooms, ICUs and other areas of a hospital where patients are dealing with respiratory disorders. Some of their everyday tasks include sedating patients, performing intubation and specializing in ventilator management. As thousands of Hoosiers have been hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms in the last year and a half, respiratory therapists have also seen their workload increase.

Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) Angel Baker has worked in the profession for 16 years at Parkview Health. Since the pandemic began, Baker has also noticed increased emphasis on her role.

“We’re still seeing our normal patients, but we have an increased surplus of COVID patients keeping us extra busy,” Baker said.

Baker adds the patients she has tended to suffer more serious symptoms and require longer care than what she was accustomed to before the pandemic.

At the same time, respiratory therapists have been in short supply. The pandemic exposed a long-term issue with the lack of available RRTs. Baker hopes that interest in the profession will grow now that it has become a more significant position since the pandemic began.

“I love the fact that people know what we do now,” Baker said. “I hate the reason that they know what we do now, but it has definitely highlighted our profession.”

Baker says she has been approached by colleagues about respiratory therapy and the type of schooling involved to become a RRT.

Several universities throughout Indiana offer a respiratory therapy program, including in Fort Wayne. Currently, Ivy Tech Fort Wayne offers an Associate’s program for respiratory therapy in the School of Health Sciences.

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